Transit presented the final concert of their “new music from around the world” DoubleBill festival on Monday, which featured the incomparable Vicky Chow on solo piano.


Clifton Gates (2011) by Jacob Cooper. Vicky puts in earbuds, cues up her laptop for live processing, plays from an iPad (instead of paper sheet music). Each chord she plays repeating in a rhythmic echo via the processing. Chords far enough apart to let the echo beat a couple times. A disjointed melody is woven in. Chords occur more closely together as the melody expands, intensifies. She moves gradually higher and higher on the piano, playing louder and louder, the reverberations of the high chords bouncing around the church. Minor mode. Becomes gradually softer until the end.

Hoyt-Schermerhorn (2010) by Christopher Cerrone. Named after the stop on the G train route. The piece is about waiting, the expectation of something to happen, as in waiting forever for the G train to arrive (I can personally attest to the scarcity of that train at that stop). Very still, quiet beginning, chords/dyads played in slow tempo. Four-note melody repeats with different chords underneath. New character as melody goes away and low rich chord pattern repeats and expands while another, higher pattern also repeats independently. High goes away and we’re left with rich low chord pattern. Abrupt loud and high dyad, which repeats in processed echo. Slow diminuendo as the train leaves the station.

Aorta (2010) by Daniel Wohl. Angular melody and its twin an 11th (or farther) apart played simultaneously, major 2nd dyads. Pace quickens exponentially, electronics enter. II. Repeated note in syncopated rhythm. Piano’s sound altered electronically, echoey with percussive effect like pitched wooden block. She takes hands away from piano to reveal the sound is looping. III. Electronic track begins, she plays a pattern in which almost every note is struck twice, wide contour spanning the entire keyboard. Built on melodic 2nds. Playing intensifies, activity increases, ends abruptly.


Wave 3 (2007) by Peter Adriaansz. Electronic track and she play the same low note, she adds octave while reaching inside piano and touches ebows to the strings. Now a fifth added, she plucks a string. Track disperses into multiple barely discernible notes. Octaves and fifths persist creating with track an ever growing cloud of sound. Now a major 3rd added. She continues to touch the ebows to the piano strings. Electronic track producing beating, filling the church with its oscillations, eerily making the sound feel very close. Beating continues and intensifies, just this side of uncomfortably so. All the while she continues the octaves and fifths. Beating gradually attenuates, her playing grows softer.

The Body Is an Ear (2012) by Kate Moore. Vicky performs with pre-recorded track of herself playing the same part as she’s playing live, resulting in big, layered sound. Minor scale, different meters in left and right hands. Lots of motion, minimalistic in its slight permutations of repeated figures. Very dramatic, gradual build, sudden decrease. Watching her playing the multiple meters very exciting. Another increase, loudest yet, pounding away, using full expanse of the keyboard. Another decrease and more metrical difference between the hands. Sudden increase and much more discordant. Extreme decrease, reduces to one repeated note.

Digit #2 (2003) by Mayke Nas. David Friend joins her at the piano. Begins with deceptively simplistic alternation between loud cluster, silence for several seconds, loud cluster again. David and Vicky slamming both of their hands on the keyboard; at one point they hit so hard it makes the sheet music flutter off the stand. The clusters occur at different parts of the keyboard, and the timing in between varies. Speeding up, alternating between low and high end, both striking with their right hands and then with their left hands. They begin clapping in between the clusters, pace is regular, rhythmic now. Also slapping their thighs. Then they begin clapping each other’s hands pat-a-cake style. The rhythms become increasingly complex, amazing to watch the coordination of the clapping and cluster-playing. (A little worried one might accidentally slap the other in the face!). The seemingly simplistic piece has become really engaging. Amazing lightning fast pat-a-cake at the end! Performance ends with our cheers.